Business Acumen for Nurse Leaders

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Nurse Drawing Leadership ChartIn the past, nurse leaders were only expected to manage clinical problems and coordinate care with staff. Today, nurses who work as front-line managers are clinical care experts who also have the business savvy to direct a unit or department.

Nurse managers are working harder than ever to deliver quality care to an increasing number of patients. As leaders, registered nurses (RNs) in leadership roles also work to decrease healthcare costs, adhere to regulatory requirements, meet contractual requirements and implement business and financial functions, Suzanne “Suzi” Waddill-Goad, author of Business Basics for Nurses, said to Reflections on Nursing Leadership.

“Most nurses are not inclined to consider the business aspects of healthcare that, ultimately, may affect their role as caregivers,” Waddill-Goad said in “Add business acumen to your clinical skills: Tips from an expert. “Learning the ins and outs of how things really work on the business side of healthcare will propel any nurse forward in his or her career.”

As nurse leaders, learning about business plans and acumen is essential to career growth and healthcare expansion. At Duquesne University, RNs who earn online master’s in nursing degrees are prepared to take on clinical and business responsibilities as nurse managers.

Business Acumen for Nurse Leaders

Business acumen – the ability to make sound decisions by examining a variety of factors and determining the best outcome – has been essential to the changing healthcare landscape for years. As change agents, nurse managers develop business skills and insight to fulfill their roles as critical providers.

Some of the most essential business acumen skills and competencies to have as a nurse leader include:

Strategic reasoning

Strategic reasoning allows nurse managers to participate in organization strategic planning and develop long-term goals. Nurse leaders can provide concrete examples of where positive changes can be made.

Statistical analysis

Statistics and data collection help nurse leaders understand trends, support evidence-based practices and uncover patterns to treat patients.

Critical thinking

Critical-thinking skills allow nurse leaders to review published data and research to determine credibility. Nurse leaders also use critical thinking to interpret and analyze business-related problems and provide effective answers.


Strong communication skills include writing professional-sounding business proposals, presentations, newsletters, memos and emails. Nurse managers also use non-verbal communication, including eye contact, mindful gesturing and posture.

Financial competency

An in-depth understanding of accounting, budgeting and finance allows nurse leaders to follow through on a department’s or unit’s vision. Nurse managers also use their financial literacy skills to work through changes in reimbursement models and other financial constraints.

Human resources management

Human resources management’s role allows nurse leaders to set hiring standards, improve diversity and address industry trends. As a manager, nurse leaders also address organizational culture and establish operational synergy to transform the delivery of care.

Must-Have Business Skills for Nurse Leaders

American Mobile, part of AMN Healthcare, stated that nurse leaders who have a diverse set of skills serve as a critical link to hospital administration. The organization pinpointed several must-haves for nurses who want to improve their business skills:

Team-building skills

Working as part of a team is essential for staff nurses. For nurse managers, being able to put together that team is vital. Once the team is built, nurse leaders must be able to foster collaboration, build trust, and promote contentment with changes.


Nurse managers must be calm and collected under any type of pressure, from clinical to the boardroom. They should be able to direct team members and apply crisis-management principles.

Balancing Business Needs with Patient Care

Between administrative demands and clinical needs, nurse managers may find themselves running ragged. Nurse leaders should be able to balance needs on both sides, even if it involves delegating tasks.


Optimistic nurse leaders create teams that are ready to tackle problems with a positive attitude. Showing appreciation and caring go a long way.

Openness and approachability

An approachable nurse leader has an open-door policy and a friendly attitude toward staff members. Make an effort to visit various shifts for face-to-face interactions.

Nurse Managers Learning Business Acumen

In business school, acumen is considered a core competency. In some advanced nursing school programs, business acumen is considered essential as well. Coursework in business strategy, human resources management and budgeting provides a strong foundation for nurse leaders to build upon.

At Duquesne University, online master’s in nursing students working toward an Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management degree learn business and healthcare skills. The nursing school works in partnership with the Duquesne University Palumbo-Donahue School of Business to provide a well-rounded education.

About Duquesne University’s Online Master of Science in Executive Nurse Leadership and Health Care Management

Duquesne University’s online MSN programs prepare RNs to work in healthcare and business leadership role. The classes are presented online so nurses can continue their careers and personal lives while pursuing their educational goals.

The university also offers MSN degrees in other tracks:


Sigma Nursing, “Add business acumen to your clinical skills: Tips from an expert”
LibreTexts, “Business Acumen and Tangible Skills”
American Mobile, “7 Must-Have Nursing Skills to Transition into Nursing Management”